Statehouse lawn transformed into symbolic cemetery to Iraq war dead

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(Host) Peace activists have transformed the lawn of the Statehouse into a temporary, symbolic cemetery.

The bright green grass is dotted with thousands of white flags – 3,829 of them. Each one represents a US solider or Marine killed in Iraq.

VPR’s John Dillon went to the Statehouse and put together this audio portrait.

(Matt Howard) In 2003, I illegally invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq with the first tank battalion, first Marine Division. My commander in chief unleashed the world’s fiercest fighting force upon the country and people of Iraq. Now those of us who have been used and betrayed by him are demanding justice.

(Mary Helen Strickland) My name is Mary Helen Strickland, I’m from Albertville, Alabama. We’re driving from New Brunswick, back through and decided to come through Vermont down the middle of the state.It’s very moving to know how many Americans have already been killed in Iraq. I don’t know how effective it will be. We’ll just have to see. I’m still behind President Bush. I don’t think we have to back down. I think it would look weak if we did.

(Sister Miriam Ward) War doesn’t stop. It stopped for these people here, represented here, rather, by these flags. It stopped for them perhaps, but not for their families. That will go on. And for an Administration that talks about family values. And then how we treat, or don’t treat, in a proper way, the returning veterans.

(Paul Zampieri) My name is Paul Zampieri. I’m from Barre. I think it’s a bunch of people just don’t understand what times we face. My father was a POW, World War 2 vet., spent nine years, nine months rather, in captivity. He believes Al Qaeda and Arab extremists are worse than Nazis. And if these people were around back then, we’d probably be speaking German.

(Eric Bachman) Eric Bachman, I’m living in Barre. It certainly is very graphic. When talking about 3,829 people, how do we measure that, how do we see that? But to see these flags, to see the entire area this is covering. If there was one person standing there, it would be a huge crowd. And they’ve all died. And that’s the smaller part of it. The other sign says a million civilians, 27,000 injured. And to think of all the families of all these men and women, the brothers and sisters, the mothers, the children. They’re also affected. This is really hurting our country. This is hurting many people in our country. And hurting many more people in Iraq. And I think we need to look for other ways to solve our conflicts…

(Host) These were some of the voices on the Statehouse lawn today. They were reacting to a display of over 3,800 flags, each one representing a US life lost in Iraq.

We heard from anti-war activist and former Marine Matt Howard, Alabama tourist Mary Helen Strickland, Sister Miriam Ward, Paul Zampieri and Eric Bachman.

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